Entering this year’s tournament, we knew that Florida and Missouri were already into the field of 68. But there were four teams desperately in need of wins to get in: Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, and Ole Miss.
Alabama and Tennessee played each other in the quarterfinals, with the Tide eliminating the Vols. Then Alabama went on to lose to the Gators. As for Kentucky, who came into the tournament as a two-seed, they were hammered by Vanderbilt in the quarterfinals, leaving many to believe that the only championship they’ll be chasing this postseason will be the NIT crown.
And then there’s Ole Miss.
Andy Kennedy’s team knew what was at stake. They battled their way back in impressive fashion to beat Missouri. After a slow start against the Commodores in yesterday’s semifinal, they took over in the second half to land them where they are today: in the SEC title game and on the right side of the bubble.
When you look at the numbers, Ole Miss should likely get in no matter what happens today. But it would make things much easier for them if they can take down Patric Young and company today in Nashville.
These two teams have only met once this season, with Florida winning 78-64 in Gainesville.
But something tells me it’ll be a different story this time around. This one should be back and forth throughout, and the big key to the game will be how the Gators are able to defend Marshall Henderson.
Vanderbilt was able to slow him down for most of the first half yesterday by being physical with him, but then out of nowhere, he exploded for quick points to give Ole Miss momentum heading into the locker room. Florida needs to try and do the same, and I would expect that they take a similar physical approach to make life as hard as possible for Henderson.
For Ole Miss, it’s all about free throws. They went 16-of-32 from the line yesterday, and if not for Henderson catching fire, that horrendous stat would have cost them the game…..and a bid in the NCAA tournament. They have to be much better than that today if they want to beat the regular season champions.
Tipoff is at 1 PM ET at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, and you can check out all on the action on ABC.